Interviewing Dr. Dugwon Seo

Dr. Dugwon Seo is an Associate Professor in the Engineering Technology Department at the Queensborough Community College. Dr. Seo was involved in the erstwhile NOAA-CREST, and pursued her doctoral research on the project entitled – “Evaluating hydrologic model and development of flash flood forecasting model using remote sensing satellite data”..

What is your back-story? How did you find a passion in Earth System Science?

I was born and raised into a decent family in South Korea. My dad was an Earth Science Teacher, therefore, I was exposed  to the scientific environment at an early age. Although I developed an early passion in science and engineering, when I was faced with the choice of a major in college, I chose to pursue in business school since it was a common path taken by women students as it allowed for more job opportunities. I didn’t believe that the interests I had in science and engineering could be connected to my career. Later into my time in college, I realized that my life was becoming monotonous and meaningless as I had chosen the college with just name value and the major that would make it easier to find a job as a woman rather than chasing my true passion. So, I decided to take a break to look for a meaningful way to live a life. I took off, to go to the United States, leaving everything behind. I decided to stay in New York giving up all I had achieved thus far, starting all over again as a foreign student, and supporting myself financially in an unfamiliar environment with completely different culture. Eventually, I was able to find what I really wanted to do while exploring my new academic and career option. I was fascinated by cellular communication and its new technology back then. I studied telecommunication engineering and was introduced to the satellite remote sensing study through the NOAA CREST(now CESSRST) program. I enjoyed doing research that combines Earth Sciences and satellite remote sensing technologies.

What obstacles have you have you faced in your profession as an Asian American/Pacific Islander in the Earth System Science? How did you overcome then?

Fortunately, I have not faced major racial obstacles in my academic profession being in New York. However, it is true that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are facing systemic racism or discrimination as well at certain positions particularly in leadership position.

What does AAPI History Month mean to you?

I have recently learned AAPI Heritage Month became a nationally recognized month since 2009. It’s good to have a sense of belonging in the group where I can represent my ethnic background and culture. I hope more people get to recognize and celebrate AAPI Heritage Month every year.

What has been your biggest motivation?

My family. I have two children. Both were born while I was a graduate student. They had been great motivation for me since I held them in my womb while preparing for the Ph.D. qualifying exam. My husband and two sons are very supportive and continue to motivate me to this day.

What advice would you give young students who are interested in the Earth Systems Science?

I have this favorite quote: “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges”. Keep looking for challenges and rise to them. Sometimes you will fail. You can’t overcome every challenge you face and it’s okay to fail to defeat these obstacles occasionally. You will gain experience. You will learn how to withstand adversity and it will lead to conquer the next challenges.

The CUNY CREST Institute Team thanks Dr. Dugwon Seo for her amazing contributions to the would of science and for being an inspiration to our readers!